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Secret Intelligence Training at Camp X

For the week of Monday, November 30, 2015

On December 6, 1941, Special Training School 103, better known as Camp X, secretly opened in Whitby and Oshawa, Ontario. Established by William Stevenson, the Canadian-born head of the British Security Co-ordination (BSC), Camp X operated as a training facility for Canadian and American intelligence specialists during the Second World War.

The singular sign posted at the entrance of Camp X
© Lynn Philip Hodgson

The British Secret Intelligence Service established the BSC in June 1940 with intentions to expand its intelligence operations into North and South America during the war. Part of the BSC’s mandate was to establish a special training school in Canada, one of Britain’s allies during the war.

Camp X employed the finest British and Canadian intelligence specialists, turning already highly qualified recruits into skilled secret agents. In courses ranging from one to 10 weeks, prospective agents learned the arts of espionage, sabotage, and subversion. The students were tested to their limits, participating in realistic training simulations as they learned techniques in unarmed combat, weapons use, silent killing, and demolition. The recruits also learned psychological techniques that allowed them to quickly and accurately identify double agents, withstand interrogation if caught, and complete their missions under pressure. At its closing in 1944, more than 500 agents had successfully completed training at Camp X. They either went on as secret operatives throughout the Americas, or were sent to Britain for further training before being deployed on clandestine missions in wartime Europe.

Explosives training at Camp X, 1943
© Lynn Philip Hodgson

Also operating from Camp X was a highly advanced, top-secret communications relay station known as Hydra. Used during the Second World War, Hydra securely transmitted highly classified information between Canada, the United States, and Britain, and helped foster and maintain strong international intelligence ties. It was operational until 1969, in the midst of the Cold War.

As a result of its top-secret nature, the intelligence operations and training conducted at Camp X could not be immediately recognized, nor could the courageous efforts of the men and women associated with its operations. To honour these important contributions today, the Secret Intelligence Activities at Camp X is now a National Historic Event.

This year marks the second year in the 75th anniversary of the Second World War! To learn more about Canada’s contributions to the war effort on home soil, read Off to Work We Go!Canada Agrees to Hold Second World War Prisoners, and German Prisoners of War at Camp 30 and the Battle of Bowmanville in the This Week in History archives. Also check out the Government of Canada’s World War Commemorations page.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada. Also, click here to learn about the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

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